All posts by blenon

Need Cybersecurity Workforce Experience?

Students from community colleges, technical colleges, and universities can join the NCyTE Virtual Cyber Career Challenge!

The challenge is project based and designed to build technical and soft skills. Students will work virtually over ten weeks in small teams to configure, operate, protect, and defend a network of machines.

By completing the project, students will have demonstrated how they were able to plan, problem solve, work in teams, communicate effectively, write reports, and present findings. It is intended to be a real-world workforce experience students can put on their resume to gain future employment.

Eligibility 

Students need to complete the following requirements by March 2.

  1. An introduction to networking course
  2. An introduction to cybersecurity course
  3. Turned in a Cybersecurity Challenge Commitment Agreement (distributed at the information session)
  4. Attended a one hour information session (pick one):

Cyber Career Challenge Schedule

  • March 2 – Commitment Agreement due
  • April 10 – Workshop begins: Introduction to program work roles
  • April 17 – Introduction to the network requirements and team selection
  • April 24 – Network admin basics, Kanban, Gantt charts, Visio diagrams
  • May 1 to June 5 – Teams work independently and receive guidance on network management and pentest prep
  • June 12 – Pentest
  • June 15 – Team presentations
  • September 15 (Optional) Virtual Career Fair

Learning objectives

Students will work in teams of three to successfully complete the following:

  • Develop a project plan for an Information System that supports a fictitious business.
  • Utilize project management tools for communication and project implementation.
  • Operate a network of nine devices within the technical requirements specified.
  •  Defend their network against a penetration test.
  • Analyze the network for any evidence of attacks or compromise resulting from penetration testing.
  • Present their approach to operating the network and findings from the penetration test.

College credit – Students who are interested in earning internship or co-operative education credits by completing the CCC need to inquire with their institution. The CCC does not offer college credit. The CCC instructor, however, holds a similar role as an employer would in an internship. Students need to contact their program advisor at their institution to find out if the CCC will qualify and the process for earning credits.

Visit the NCyTE (National Cybersecurity Training & Education Center) website.

DCO is Getting Bigger and NOVA is at the Forefront

T.J. Ciccone, NOVA DCO Faculty and VP of STACK Infrastructure, shares insights on teaching and managing in a mission critical field.

You’ve recently been named a 2022 Education Champion by Infrastructure Masons – congratulations! Can you tell us how that came about and how you felt about it?

In 2017, Northern Virginia Community College approached me and asked if I would be willing to help start their data center operations course. First, I helped develop some of the coursework to be implemented, then they asked me to teach it. In January 2018, I held the first data center operations course, part of a fully accredited program at the college. In September 2018, the college launched the first-ever two-year degree program designed specifically for data center operators in the state of Virginia. It’s an ideal program for a state now known as “the home of the internet.”

The class began with 12 enrollees. Now the program has gained so much momentum that I teach two cohorts of the course with room for up to 50 students. About 85% of my students are now working full-time in the data center business, and most of them are people who had never set foot in a data center before.

Infrastructure Masons is a global, non-profit, professional association of infrastructure executives and technical professionals. This year, I was honored and humbled to have been named the 2022 Infrastructure Masons Education Champion. So many people have played a part in this, and I am very appreciative! I would like to thank STACK Infrastructure, Beth Ciccone, Northern Virginia Community College, and AFCOM Potomac Chapter for helping me further the education of our future data center workforce.

As far as your Data Center career, what lit the flame for you? How did you get into it?

Like most people in the data center business, I got into it by accident. I was a Chief Mechanical Operator while serving onboard the USS Enterprise, where I was responsible for the daily mechanical operations of the nuclear power plant. When I left the military, I spent ten years in retail, and I was looking to get out of retail and go to law school. While going through that process, I got a call from a former military member and a dear friend of mine who was the director of operations for a data center company in New Jersey.

I started working there about a week later.

You are VP at STACK Infrastructure and busy with many projects related to DCO. You are also a professor at NOVA. Why is it important for you to teach?

Five years ago, one of the statistics brought to my attention was the need for data center industry personnel will grow more than 15% in the next 5-10 years—and that was back then. Since then, the number of industry personnel has increased vastly. When the pandemic shut everything down and the use of the “Internet of Things” grew, many people were driven into the data center business.

The data center industry has tried to increase diversity and inclusion across the board, especially in regard to STEM students who are trying to find their way into something.

At the same time, I teach because I realize that the opportunities given to students from working in the data center can literally change their lives overnight. When I was asked to join the data center business, my first question was, “What’s a data center?” Even though it’s been 15 years since I entered the industry, many people still ask me that same question. I am working to change that.

What’s your philosophy of teaching in terms of connecting to students?

I look at every student like each one has the ability to be in this industry. There may be varying levels of impact, but each student can do it. That’s how I look at them and how I connect to them. Have you ever seen any movie where there’s a drill sergeant that everybody hates and then loves by the end? I think that is me in a way. On day one I make it clear that I do not teach remotely for a reason. In this business, we are on-site. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were in person. For 15 weeks, these students need to commit to being there for at least 14 of those because mission critical works the same way. We’re not giving out $25,000 a year jobs. These are $100,000 salaries. If you want it, you must put in the work to get it. That’s kind of the way it starts off. Of course, then you get to know them, and you get to know their story. I have individual meetings with each one, and then I cater the learning from there.

What are some of the success stories you have seen from students in the DCO program moving forward into a career?

80% of the students that have passed my class currently work in the data center business. It started with 12 people the first year, then went to 15, 18, and finally 21. Now I teach twice a week on Mondays and Fridays because we expanded to two cohorts since there were so many students. We recently crested 100 students who have been a part of the program. To think, five years ago, 50-something of those students had never even heard of a data center, and now they’re working in the industry. At our STACK Infrastructure site, NVA01 in Northern Virginia, nearly half the existing staff at that building came from the Northern Virginia Community College program. The data center industry will only grow; NVCC pointed out this last year that during the pandemic, community college enrollment across the board declined, except for in the engineering technology space.

What would you say to students who are considering DCO as a career field but don’t necessarily see themselves as technically gifted?

Many students start the program without basic knowledge of the industry. NVCC has the only fully college-accredited coursework in the data center business. Our curriculum breaks concepts down in a way that students of all levels can understand and enables them to dive into the industry. This program produces students that understand all sides (telecom, fiber networking, engineering operations, etc.). Finding people with a broad knowledge is challenging, and our program is not only turning out high-quality students, but students that know both ends of the industry—utility to rack and what’s going on inside the rack to connect it to the internet.

NOVA will soon have a state-of-the-art Data Center Training Facility at the Woodbridge Campus. How will that change the game in terms of awareness and training?

There’s nothing like this in the United States. They are building a $5 million functional data center in Woodbridge, Virginia. It will allow us to expand the program for more students. Right now, we’re limited to 20 – 24 per class, but their classroom sizes will be bigger, and it’s expandable at the same time. It’s really going to give students the hands-on experience that they need. Aside from that, one of the amazing things about STACK being a huge supporter of this program is that on three of the 15 class nights, the students come to STACK and get to see what it’s like on the inside.

How has NOVA SySTEMic/NOVA IET been helpful to you in connecting education to industry?

It’s almost like the opposite. Working in industry allows me to connect industry to education. For example, there’s a lot of data center events that I get to invite the students to, and those groups encourage the students to attend golf outings, Christmas parties, etcetera.

How does diversity, equity, and inclusion factor into filling the talent gap in the DCO market?

Progressing DE&I is a major initiative in the data center industry, and the same goes for Northern Virginia Community College, which is a big supporter of STEM and working with national programs like “Girls Who Code.”

I’m on the board at AFCOM Potomac, another organization supporting the advancement of data center and IT infrastructure professionals, and I help run their education committee.  We run an internship program over the summer, and the money raised from the internship program goes to directly support students who are going into the program that I teach. It’s grown so much so that everyone who takes my class in the fall gets their class entirely paid for. There’s no paperwork associated with it. There’s no background check. There are no qualifying prerequisites. The course is paid for everyone from all walks of life.

Additionally, STACK Americas created a program that is specifically designed to bring in students from diverse backgrounds for paid training without subtracting from the viable headcount needed to run a site so that students can learn and train on the company dime for one year and become a fully operational critical technician. I’ve never seen an employer do that—ever.

What’s your work/life balance in this field? What do you enjoy in your spare time?

Instead of the term “work/life balance,” I prefer the term “work/life flow.” I am a big believer of work hard, play hard. In addition to my career at STACK, as well as my contributions as a professor, I have way too many hobbies. I play golf and disc golf. I’m at the gym every morning, religiously, at 5:20 a.m. where I’m either lifting weights or doing yoga. For years, I maintained my status as a triathlete while in this industry. My expectation for myself is that I need to be available 24/7, and I am ok with that.


Click here for more info on Data Center Operations at NOVA. We offer a 2-year A.A.S. and and 1-year C.S.C.

You can register for T.J.’s course: ENE 195: Introduction to Data Center Operations for Spring 2023. There are several spots still available (classes start mid-January), but it will fill up quickly as the Spring class will focus on getting students into the internship program over the summer and getting jobs filled!

 Click here to watch a video on enrolling at NOVA.

#DCO #InDemandTech #HighTechHighWage

CLRI Celebrates Fall Graduates at Networking Event

The Fall Career and Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI) concluded on November 17 at the Woodbridge Campus (at the site of the future NOVA Data Center Training Facility). NOVA IET students put their newly enhanced career skills in action to make industry connections at a final networking session, the culminating event for students before they receive their certificates of completion. This was particularly notable this semester as it was the first in-person CLRI at NOVA since it was established in 2020.

Through an extracurricular 5-week course, CLRI students were trained how to interview, create a resume that stands out, manage interpersonal skills in a diverse workplace, and more. Students were also treated to two tours of an IET partner, STACK Infrastructure Data Center.

The final networking event kicked-off with remarks from VP of IET and College Computing Dr. Chad Knights before students and IET professionals gathered for a round table discussion and Q & A on relevant experiences and pressing needs in the tech workforce. After the discussion, Executive Director of the NOVA Foundation Kelly Persons addressed graduates and presented them with completion certificates and a leather CLRI portfolio. Graduates also receive a digital CLRI badge that they can add to their LinkedIn profiles.

Following the certificate presentation, CLRI students put their skills to the test during a catered meal where there were opportunities to network with the industry partners from the roundtable discussions. One of the major draws of CLRI and especially the final networking event is that graduates obtain immediate internship opportunities and receive priority consideration for our paid summer internships. 2-3 students from the fall CLRI cohort have been offered winter-break internships at Digital Realty and 3 CLRI students have already been extended an offer of employment from various industry partners.


Feedback from CLRI graduates included the following:

“CLRI helped me to get professional skills, to meet people, to make connections, to build my network. I really learned how to rebrand my resumé to attract hiring managers.” – Kanyin, NOVA IT Major

“I want to get better, I want to be better, I want to do better, and I want an opportunity to come my way. This gave me the opportunity. It was a lot of fun and definitely built my confidence” – Elizabeth, NOVA IT Major

“The nicest thing about CLRI is that you get to know a lot of people who are like-minded, and industry professionals who give you really good advice. It’s definitely worth joining.” – Hamid, IST Major

“I would 100% recommend CLRI. The networking aspect was what I got the most from. Tom (Tom Gerencer, CLRI’s Technical Resume Instructor), who I was able to contact via LinkedIn, turned my resume from OK to fantastic.” Tim, ET Major

“Once [NOVA students] come into the program, they will feel how impactful CLRI is on their career journey.” – Tahiba, IT Major


For the Fall 2022 cohort, 34 NOVA students are scheduled to complete CLRI (make-up sessions are due Dec 15) and 52 students attended at least one workshop. Overall, since it’s implementation, CLRI has surpassed 100 completers.

Special recognition goes to M. Andy Chaves, NOVA SySTEMic CTE Coordinator, and Sedrick Settle, IET Career Advisor for their exemplary work in running CLRI with excellence and enthusiasm from beginning to end this semester.

You can reach M. Andy at machaves@nvcc.edu and Sedrick at ssettle@nvcc.edu


Industry Partners who attended the CLRI Networking Event:

Keron Taylor, Data Center Operations Manager, Google
Troy Hill, Director of Data Center Operations, Iron Mountain Data Centers
Jay Mitchell, Operations Manager, Iron Mountain Data Centers
Scott LaCasse, Supervisor of Workstation Support, PWCS
Darlene Armenta, Director of Talent Acquisition, Red River
Koren Flint, Senior Director of Customer Experience, Red River
Christopher Lettiere, Director of Data Center Operations, Coresite
Rob Morgan, Director of Project Management, CompuDynamics
Sal Amado, Director of Learning & Development, Simple Technology Solutions


Spring CLRI Opportunities:

If you are a NOVA student and want to get ahead in your career, CLRI will continue in Spring 2023, with a kick-off event on Feb 16 and workshops beginning the following week on Feb 21. You can sign up for our Spring 2023 Interest Form at https://www.nvcc.edu/career-services/clri.html to be notified when applications are available. We will also keep you up to date through our monthly Newsletter, which you can sign up for at http://newsletter.novastem.us

Another good resource to keep up with IET and future CLRI sessions and feedback is the NOVA Engage App, which you can find on Apple and Google Play. Some CLRI students who received internships applied directly through the App.

NOVA IT Student Wins First in FOWA Upskilling

Willie Brown is a second-year student pursuing an A.S. in Information Technology, a C.S.C. for Network Engineering Specialist, and CompTIA Industry Certifications at NOVA Alexandria.

The Future of Work Academy (FOWA) is an organization that provides career prep in cybersecurity.

Willie won first place in the FOWA Innovation Incubator Challenge for his presentation addressing one of two incubator topics and then responding to questions from a panel of judges.

Willie was thrilled to place first and we caught up with him to discuss his experience:

You won first place at FOWA for Upskilling – congratulations! How did you react when you found out the news?
I was stunned! There was a moment where I could have screen-captured the college name and mine with the 1st Place label. I missed it!

Why is Upskilling is important in your field?
Upskilling, building upon what I already know, is essential in IT, especially network engineering. Specific knowledge “bits” carry from ethernet to routing protocols to automation—the primary IT knowledge and skills around grounding when learning new technologies.

How has NOVA helped you achieve your goals in Network Engineering and Information Technology?
Several studies indicate that being highly involved in college correlates with better academic performance and well-being. So, well, I am involved. I ensure I get the IET Newsletter and the weekly campus list of events and activities. I make time for essential things. So, NOVA is offering opportunities, and I am using those events and activities to broaden my experience in my Network Engineering and Information Technology classes.

You stated in your presentation that “you are never too old to start anything…” What is your experience learning new career skills later in life?
The makemebetter.net quote continued, “especially if it is going to change (improve) the rest of my life.” I will say that knowing “why” I am learning new career skills changes the game. Knowing my “why” is a pipeline to my “what.” Juggling work and school can be challenging. However, when I start to doubt, I replay Eminem’s – “Lose Yourself” –

“Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip? Yo”.

My “why” is to have a secure future. Part of the “what” is to learn as much as possible – challenge myself to do the things that scare me.

What would you say to students who are considering IT as a career field but don’t have experience yet? How can they succeed?
Of course, they can succeed! However, the opportunities for them, the chances that could change the rest of their lives, maybe looking them directly in the face. My point is to be aware of opportunities so that they can take advantage of them because they may not come along again.

Who has been of particular help to you along your career pathway?
Two essential lessons: 1. Always ask for help, and 2. Never say no for another person. There is always someone willing to help if I would only ask. Next, it is critical to ask for what I want. If I want to stretch myself, it is my responsibility to seek it out and ask for and seek inclusion. I only sometimes get what I want. But I can tell you I am much further along than if I tried to do it alone.

What actions should our community be engaged in to take digital education of adults to the next level?
We always have to consider meeting people where they are. What skills and talents do they already possess, and how can we grow those assets. An essential “must do” is demystifying digital literacy in the modern world. Typing is a critical yet transferable skill that can empower further exploration and growth in information technology. Help those that want to make changes in their lives move forward. I suggest combining touch typing with Microsoft Office User Support certification training in my presentation.

What barriers in diversity, equity, and inclusion need to be addressed in your area of expertise?
One of the first barriers to DEI is the organizational recognition that there are barriers in IT, which must be addressed and overcome if organizations want to be sure they are getting the broadest, most capable talent onboard. For example, I have worked in organizations where no one looked like me. It was challenging when the social and relational barriers at work convinced another person who might look like me or be a woman not to speak up! As a result, good ideas may go unspoken, and profits go uncollected. But on the other hand, the IT team looks like Star Trek will win the race simply because of the openness, supportive environment, and willingness to take risks because they trust their team members.

What’s your work/life balance in this field? What do you enjoy in your spare time?
It is a balancing act, that is for sure! Working full-time and usually a full-time course load requires balancing. I eat right with room for my treat of potato chips, and I do my best to get a good night’s rest every night. Additionally, I started running a few years ago, I had never run in my life, and then I found UK’s NHS Couch to 5k. Within eight weeks, I was running a 5K in 40 minutes. I was like, “WOW, I have just run for 2.5 miles without stopping once and was not out of breath”. I was hooked! Next up, 10K and perhaps even a marathon.

Apply For Paid Design Centered Programs

In this article: Information on our Design Thinking Fellowship and Product Design Incubator (PDI)…



Design Thinking Fellowship

We’re recruiting for our second cohort of Design Thinking Fellows. This National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored program is open to middle and high school teachers, informal STEM learning professionals, and college faculty. The fellowship comes with a $2200 stipend upon completion.

Complex problems require innovative and creative solutions. Design Thinking is the key to challenge assumptions and approach problem solving in a collaborative, interdisciplinary and non-linear way. Join us to learn about becoming a fellow and bringing design thinking to others.

Fellows will:

  • Complete a 5-day Professional Learning (PL) Institute in Spring 2023 at NOVA’s Fab Lab.
  • Practice teaching PL topics at a 1-week Summer Camp
  • Submit an entry to the Fall 2023 Fab Lab Design Challenge
  • Create and Implement PL Classroom activities

Information Sessions:

Tues Dec 6 | 4:30pm

Register at fellowship.novastem.us/MBDinfo

Registration:

If you are already familiar with the fellowship and ready to apply you can do so at fellowship.novastem.us/MBDapply


Product Design Incubator:

Do you have a brilliant idea for a new product? The NOVA Fab Lab is hosting out first Product Design Incubator for NOVA students to learn design thinking, develop entrepreneurial skills, and prototype and build a product at the NOVA Fab Lab.

PDI participants will:

  • Learn entrepreneurship skills during 6 spring workshops.
  • Design and protype a product during a summer product design incubator.
  • Pitch a product to regional entrepreneurs
  • Receive a $3000 stipend for completion

You can complete a apply PDI application at fablab.novastem.us/PDIapply

Join us for an information session to learn about bringing your idea to life! Interest meetings will be held on Thursday, November 10 and Thursday, December 8. You can register for those at fablab.novastem.us/PDIinfo

PDI is possible thanks to a National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant.

To learn more about our Grants in general visit www.nvcc.edu/academics/divisions/it/sponsored-grants.html

Fall 2022 Fab Lab Design Challenge

Time is fast approaching for NOVA students (as well as other college, High School, and Middle School students) to submit their designs for the Fall 2022 Fab Lab Design Challenge, which is to fabricate a replica of your favorite science fiction prop. As it has been for previous challenges, there will be prizes including 3D-printers and cash! All entries must be submitted online by December 11.

HOW TO ENTER:

COMPETITION DATES:

  • Competition opens Oct 31 at 11:59 pm
  • Submissions must be received by 11:59 pm December 11
  • Finalists will be announced December 15 at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners announced at the Finalists Exhibition in Jan 2023

OVERVIEW

The rise in popularity of replica prop “garage kits” (on account of their construction in small, non-factory settings) has been celebrated by celebrity DIYer Adam Savage, and hundreds of “Youtubers” alike. DIY Prop replicas are becoming so sophisticated it can be hard to differentiate them from originals.

For our latest Design Challenge, The Fab Lab is celebrating STEM by hosting our own replica prop making competition. As scientists, artists, engineers, and inventors the Fab Lab staff believe the foundation of prop making, especially in science fiction requires a seamless blend of innovation, problem solving, creativity, and craft. Your challenge is to fabricate a replica of an original science fiction prop used in a movie or a TV show. The more convincing your replica is, the greater your chance of winning.

FAQ

What is a prop?

A prop is any inanimate object that an actor interacts with. There is a wide range of props that vary on how they are used and what they are used for. Props are created by the “property department” (also called props department) which is led by the prop master.

How is a prop different to a costume?

Typically, if you wear it, it’s a costume. If you hold it, it’s a prop. However, there is some grey area here – a helmet worn by an actor can be considered both costume and a prop, while a cape or gown would be considered costume.

What about scale?

We will accept full size and scaled replicas, so long as there is precedent for a scaled version. In many cases, the original prop was scaled due to size and budget constraints – think of the Millennium Falcon or Titanic models. Scaled down versions of large models and props are permitted. Smaller props that are intended to interact with an actor should remain true or close to life-size if possible.

Why Science Fiction?

Science fiction has been called the “literature of ideas“, and often explores the potential consequences of scientific, social, and technological innovations. Since science fiction is centered around exploration it has predicted several actual inventions such as the atom bomb, robots, and AI. Science fiction provides the perfect STEM platform for design, fabrication, and engineering.

What do you mean by replica?

A replica for this competition is an imitation or copy of a prop, with an emphasis on recreating the aesthetics in as much detail as possible. Since the original prop might very well be a replica itself, operating parts are optional and not necessary.

RULES AND REGULATIONS:

  1. The Challenge is open to anyone in middle school, high school, or a post-secondary educational institute within the continental USA.
  2. Participants must be 18 years or older or provide consent by a parent or guardian over the age of 18.
  3. Participation is only open to individuals. No team entries will be accepted.
  4. Only 1 entry per person is permitted.
  5. Prop replicas must be related in some way to, or invoke, science fiction.
  6. Judges will select finalists from the online submissions. These finalists will then be asked to deliver and leave their fabricated replicas at the Fab Lab for in-person judging.
  7. Once judging has been completed, an awards ceremony and exhibit of all the physical entries will be held for competitors, winners, VIPs, guests, and judges.
  8. Competitors presenting work that is not their own will be disqualified.
  9. No projectiles, metal blades, pyrotechnics, or functional firearms.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS:

  1. Documentation of your completed replica
    1. QTY 5: high-quality, still, color, digital images of your finished replica. (jpeg, jpg, tif, tiff, png, pdf)
    2. Preferably on a neutral (white, grey, black) background
    3. Multiple views are suggested (top, front, side, perspective, etc.)
  2. Documentation of the original prop
    1. QTY 5: high-quality reference images of the original prop. (jpeg, jpg, tif, tiff, png, pdf)
    2. Movie Stills, magazine photos, documentation, plans, etc.
    3. The more detail these provide the better (scale, size, detail, finish, color, weathering)
  3. Evidence of fabrication
    1. QTY 5: high-quality photos documenting your production and fabrication techniques and process. (jpeg, jpg, tif, tiff, png, pdf).
    2. Should span the process from beginning to end
  4. Completed on-line questionnaire and application

JUDGING CRITERIA:

  1. Accuracy, attention to detail, authenticity (0-10 points)
  2. Build quality, craftsmanship, and detail (0-10 points)
  3. Inventiveness, creativity, problem solving, working with limitations (0-10 points)
  4. Choice of materials (0-10 points)
  5. Aesthetics: painting / finishing / weathering (0-10 points)
  6. Functionality such as lights, sounds, mechanical and moving parts (0-10 points)
  7. Display base, case, or presentation (0-10 points)

JUDGES: (TBD)

  • Movie Prop Maker / Special effects artist
  • Smithsonian/air and space museum
  • Director / Actor
  • Fabricator
  • Cabinet Maker/Theater/set designer

PRIZES:

Awards will be presented in each of the following categories:

  • Post-Secondary
    • 1st place: 3D-printer, printer accessories, $250 cash prize
    • 2nd place: $250 cash prize
    • 3rd place: $100 cash prize
  • High School
    • 1st place: 3D-printer, printer accessories, $250 cash prize
    • 2nd place: $250 cash prize
    • 3rd place: $100 cash prize
  • Middle School
    • 1st place: 3D-printer, printer accessories, $250 cash prize
    • 2nd place: $250 cash prize
    • 3rd place: $100 cash prize

 WORKSHOPS: (TBD)

 TERMS & CONDITIONS:

  • Agree to be bound by the decisions of the judges.
  • Warrant that you are eligible to participate.
  • Warrant, to the best of your knowledge, your work is not, and has not been in production or otherwise previously published or exhibited.
  • Warrant neither the work nor its use infringes the intellectual property rights (whether a patent, utility model, functional design right, aesthetic design right, trademark, copyright, or any other intellectual property right) of any other person.
  • Warrant participation shall not constitute employment, assignment or offer of employment, or assignment.
  • Agree participation does not entitle to compensation or reimbursement for any costs.
  • Agree Northern Virginia Community College and all affiliates have the right to promote all entries and winners.
  • Winners will be contacted by NOVA Fab Lab staff to get their contact information and any other information needed.
  • Winning Product will be chosen based on the Rules and Requirements.
  • Winning individuals or teams will be required to collect prize(s) at a chosen NOVA campus and agree to be photographed with their winning designs.
  • Winners agree to the following NOVA Fab Lab/NOVA Community College Graphics Release:

I hereby give the right to take, use, publish, display, broadcast, or print – in any media – photographs, slides, digital images, films, and audio or video recordings made in conjunction with the Fab Lab, to the full extent in which I am included. I understand that such sounds, images, and video may be used for instruction, promotion, advertising, and any other lawful           purpose.

For additional information visit the Design Challenge website or send questions via email to novafablab@nvcc.edu (use the subject heading “2022 Design Challenge”)

NOVA IET at the ATE PI Conference

 

In Washington D.C. from Oct 26-28, five NOVA PI’s (principal investigators), leading three National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) projects attended the 2022 NSF ATE PI Conference to network with community college PIs and program officers at the annual conference. The NOVA PIs highlighted their project successes and collaborated with colleagues from around the country to advance the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive the nation’s economy.

The conference brought together more than 600 NSF ATE grantees and their project partners to focus on the critical issues related to advanced technological education. Conference participants represent community colleges, business and industry, secondary school systems, and four-year colleges in a wide variety of areas, such as information technology, engineering technology, micro- and nanotechnologies, chemical technology, biotechnology, and more.

>> Article on Benefits of ATE Grants

Because of grant-based programs and activities, NOVA students have more access to in-demand, high-paying STEM careers, and NOVA faculty and staff are provided the tools to increase awareness and opportunities for these important fields of study.


NOVA’s NSF ATE Projects:


 DCO Tech: Expanding Regional Capacity for Training in Engineering Technology and Data Center Operations.

PI: Josh Labrie | Co-PIs: Amir Mehmood & TJ Ciccone

At the ATE conference, Josh Labrie, Director of NOVA SySTEMic, and TJ Ciccone, DCO Adjunct Faculty and VP of Critical Infrastructure at STACK Infrastructure, highlighted the NSF ATE project DCO Tech. This project is designed to increase regional capacity for training in Engineering Technology (ET) and Data Center Operations (DCO) through expanded recruitment, employment training, and increased collaboration between industry, K-12 educators, and faculty. At the conference the team highlighted the successes of the Summer Bridge Program and the Secondary Externship. In addition, Ciccone lead a presentation on DCO: Building Awareness and Opportunity for an Emerging Field.

In 2022, NOVA’s Summer Bridge Program for Engineering Technology saw 20 high school students (14 rising seniors and 6 graduates) complete the 2-week summer enrichment program which provided them with 1-credit in SDV. Students participated in industry tours of Micron Technology and STACK Infrastructure, a local data center, to learn about the career opportunities and pathways in engineering technology. Additionally, students experienced NOVA through campus tours and NOVA student offices presentations, and 14 earned an OSHA 10 industry certification. NOVA included transportation between campuses, field trips to industry partners, and an ice cream social to cap off the program.

In addition, 18 educators completed the Secondary Externship for school CTE administrators, teachers, and counselors to raise awareness for engineering technology and DCO careers. NOVA’s Secondary Externship program equips educators with knowledge about ET and DCO careers and the educational pathways NOVA provides to prepare students for the technology workforce. Externship educators attended tours of Micron and STACK Infrastructure, as well as a professional development day at the NOVA Fab Lab. The goal is to create clear pathways and provide materials to illuminate NOVA’s ET and DCO programs and the careers they lead to.

After the conference, Labrie was ebullient about the importance of Data Center Operations and the players behind its growth: “NOVA has exceptional faculty members like TJ Ciccone whose combination of industry experience and passion for education benefit our students and the grant funded work we do. At the NSF ATE PI conference, TJ and I were able to share NOVA’s DCO program with faculty from around the country. My hope is that NOVA’s successful program can serve as a model for other colleges to engage in DCO education, and that this work will raise awareness for data center education and career opportunities.”

Bridge programs and Externships continue in spring/summer 2023. Students and educators can sign up now to receive notification when applications are available at info.novastem.us/SummerPrograms


Makers By Design: Supporting Instructors to Embed Design Thinking in Digital Fabrication Courses.

PI: Josh Labrie | Co-PIs: Hamadi Belghith & Richard Sewell

Makers By Design (MBD) strengthens engineering technology pathways by providing professional learning for postsecondary faculty and K-12 educators and seeks to create a community of practice among engineering educators involved in community-based makerspaces at public libraries, private organizations, public school systems, colleges, and universities.

MBD Grant Project Manager Chris Russell represented MBD at the conference and highlighted the Design Thinking Fellowship to attendees.

The Fellowship, funded by MBD, is comprised of middle and high school teachers, informal STEM learning professionals, and college faculty. The fellowship comes with a stipend and involves completing a 5-day Professional Learning (PL) Institute at the NOVA Fab Lab in Spring 2023, teaching PL topics at a 1-week summer camp and creating and implementing PL classroom activities.

In 2022, the design thinking cohort of 17 fellows participated in five professional learning workshops and provided 116 middle and high school youth a digital fabrication summer camp at NOVA and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. The cohort will complete the fellowship by creating a design challenge and contributing a lesson plan to the project for design thinking.

Next spring we will host a second cohort of Design Thinking Fellowship educators. Recruitment will begin in November and there will be interest meetings on Wednesday November 9th and also on Tuesday December 6th. You can sign up for these sessions at fellowship.novastem.us/MBDinfo. If you are already familiar with the fellowship and ready to apply you can do so at fellowship.novastem.us/MBDapply

On the ATE conference, Russell reflected: “increasing alignment between industry needs and classroom instruction is a pressing concern in rapidly advancing technological fields. Through the thoughtful feedback from our ATE colleagues, we will improve our teacher preparation to better serve employers and students in the region.”


Product Design Incubator (PDI): Fostering Entrepreneurial Mindset Through Interdisciplinary Product Design

PI: Richard Sewell | Co-PIs: Cameisha Chin & Paula Ford

Richard Sewell, NOVA’s Fab Lab Manager, was at the conference and observed: “the ATE Conference was an excellent opportunity to engage with fellow technology educators to compare our approaches, learn new methods, and share our findings in a constantly changing tech arena. By the end of the conference, it became clear that NOVA’s NSF ATE programs are tackling head-on the most pressing issues shared throughout the nation’s top academies.”

Sewell is the PI on the NSF Product Design Incubator (PDI) Grant. PDI is a new project designed to train community college students through a product design challenge that aims to combine technical knowledge with soft skills and interpersonal development. Each year, PDI participants will:

  • Learn entrepreneurship skills during 6 spring workshops.
  • Design and protype a product during a summer product design incubator.
  • Pitch a product to regional entrepreneurs
  • Receive a $3000 stipend for completion

Essentially, PDI will increase contact between students and industry professionals, foster interdisciplinary collaboration between NOVA students and staff, and increase the supply of IET workers with industry required collaboration, communication, and critical-thinking skills.

You can complete a apply PDI application at fablab.novastem.us/PDIapply

Interest meetings will be held on Thursday, November 10 and Thursday, December 8. You can register for those at fablab.novastem.us/PDIinfo

To learn more about our Grants in general visit www.nvcc.edu/academics/divisions/it/sponsored-grants.html

 

NOVA Graduate Spotlight – Hispanic Heritage

Alec Vaca is a NOVA graduate who received an A.A.S. in Automotive from NOVA and later pursued a degree in HVAC before switching to an A.A.S. in Engineering Technology. He interned for Micron and worked there for 3 years. Afterward he interned for Digital Realty and is now employed full-time as an IT Manager. We caught up with him at the end of Hispanic Heritage month to ask about his experiences getting to where he is now and how NOVA helped him achieve his goals:

How did you first learn about NOVA?
I heard about NOVA during my Junior (11th) year in High School. Much of what I knew originally came from rumors of being a lesser-university experience for a much lower cost.

How were you first inspired in STEM?
My fascination with STEM originated also in my Junior year in High School when I took an automotive basics class and following my senior year in High School with a trade class for small engines. I thoroughly enjoyed understanding each component’s purpose in the overall picture of manipulating energy for a specific task.

Since joining NOVA, describe your experiences?
I have learned from industry experts who teach students, such as myself, with a passion to equip the future labor force. My experiences made in each lab have been stelar thanks to NOVA cultivating a healthy culture empowering my professors to teach to their best abilities.

How has NOVA equipped you in your career path?
NOVA has equipped me through many opportunities to advance my career, ranging from a plethora of degree-specific scholarships to unique Internship paths with global companies such as Micron Technology and Digital Realty.

How have you balanced work needs while pursuing your education?
Balancing a work life while pursuing an education is admittedly my greatest weakness. I have learned early on that it is possible but sacrifice to some “me” time is required. An effective balance usually means I cut down on recreation on my down time to finish deadlines from both work and school. I have been blessed to have considerate managers and professors, so that also is a huge weight off my shoulders!

What excites you about the technology industry?
The fact that we are in a unique time in the world where competition for the “latest & greatest” is at its peak.

You recently started a new job, Congratulations! Describe how you were able to secure the opportunity?
Thanks! I put into practice my persistence in finding opportunities that would benefit me and my goals. My first step was focusing more on my classes I was taking and to see what would suit my future aspirations in the workforce. Following this I took advantage of the Career Learning Readiness Institute (CLRI) training modules, offered by NOVA, for seeking employment and had the tremendous opportunity to tour STACK Infrastructure, which sealed the deal on which industry I would love to grow into. Finally, after discussing my aspirations to my professors, I was made aware of an opportunity to intern at a leading Data Center in Loudoun, which resulted in said company knowing who I was as an individual and vice versa.

What are your ultimate career goals?
I believe my ultimate career goal would be, as my father says, “Bloom where you’re planted”.

Are there any professors or mentors who you want to recognize along your journey?
My top three professors/mentors I have been fortunate to interact with would be Reginald Bennett for his passion to teach, Laura Garcia for her counseling and Amir Mehmood for his care for us the students.

What have you most enjoyed about your time at NOVA?
My best moments at NOVA have been struggling with other students to understand the material we must learn and the relationships that have sprouted from our conflicts. Nothing says comradery like a class of students working together to get to the next part of the lab!

How does your life in the professional world differ from life as a NOVA student? What are the expectations?
Learning a topic at NOVA, with physical labs included, is different from learning in the workforce. My classes give me a great foundational understanding of STEM concepts and the ability to test controlled sections of an area being explored. In the workplace, I can develop my skills I have learned, usually without control found in labs I have done at NOVA. As far as expectations go, at work I am expected to do my best and if I do not, then my team suffers the most. In my classes, I am expected to learn and if I fail to, then I alone suffer the most.

What would you say to current NOVA IET students who would like to follow your example? What should they do and what should they expect?
What worked for me was building relationships with my professors and classmates so I could learn more about who I was as a person and where I wanted to end up at. I would not be where I am today without pushing myself out of my comfort zone to look for opportunities, to which many professors are eager to help those seeking.

Is there anything else you want to share?
My parents often say a variation of “Cherish the good times and learn in the hard times”, which I find fitting.

 

DCO Tech Advancing In-Demand Technology

NOVA’s DCO Tech Grant will be highlighted at the NSF ATE Principal Investigators’ Conference in October.

On October 26-28, NOVA SySTEMic director Josh Labrie and Stack Infrastructure’s VP (and NOVA professor) TJ Ciccone will present DCO Tech at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Principal Investigators’ (PI) Conference in Washington D.C. The conference will bring together more than 850 NSF ATE grantees and their project partners to focus on the critical issues related to advanced technological education.

NOVA’s DCO Tech Grant supports NOVA’s Engineering Tech Programs and is designed to increase regional capacity for training in Engineering Technology (ET) and Data Center Operations (DCO) through expanded recruitment, employment, training, and increased collaboration between industry, K-12 educators, and faculty.

This year, as part of DCO Tech, NOVA SySTEMic conducted successful Bridge Programs for high school juniors and seniors (bridging the gap between HS and college), and introduced students to Data Center Operations and Engineering Technology. Bridge students toured 2 NOVA campuses, visited industry partners (Micron and STACK Infrastructure) and conducted hands-on activities at NOVA’s mechatronics and data center labs. The program featured guest speakers from NOVA’s student support offices, IET faculty members, and industry volunteers. 20 high school students completed the 2-week program and earned 1 college credit with the opportunity to earn their OSHA 10 certification. NOVA provided free transportation between NOVA campuses to reduce barriers to participation.

One of the hallmarks of DCO Tech’s Bridge programs is that they can improve attitudes towards STEM disciplines and awareness of career opportunities. One student reflected “I really enjoyed building connections and understanding the different fields of STEM. I never understood data centers in this depth. I’m very glad it’s in-person and we get to see NOVA campuses.”

In addition, DCO Tech helps provide career readiness for NOVA students through the Career and Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI), which enhances leadership skills and develops career connections, teaching students how to interview, create a standout resume, network effectively, and manage interpersonal skills. Students who complete CLRI will receive priority consideration for paid internships with industry partners. New CLRI courses begin on Oct 18 and you can sign up for info sessions on Oct 4, 6, and 11. Applications are due on October 12. Find out more and sign up at https://www.nvcc.edu/career-services/clri.html

Another component of DCO Tech is the K12 Educator Externship, which raises awareness for Engineering Technology and Data Center Operations career pathways among secondary educators. This Engineering Technology Externship is designed to provide teachers, counselors, and administrators with first-hand knowledge of engineering technology and data center operations through industry site visits and engagement with NOVA’s related programs of study. This year we had 18 externship completers who visited Micron Technology, Stack Infrastructure, and NOVA’s Fab Lab to help inform them on creating an action plan to improve the pipeline of students entering the workforce as technicians for DCO or Engineering Technology. In polling, 100% of participants rated the overall externship as above average or excellent. All participants expressed moderate to very confident abilities in educating their colleagues on guiding students to ET and DCO careers.

One educator said “we were given a clear picture of the type of student that would succeed in this industry, the skillsets needed, along with the curriculum. This, along with actually touring the facility, increased my awareness and as such, I feel more confident in sharing this with students, parents, and teachers.”

**We will be continuing the Summer Bridge Programs and Secondary Educator Externship Programs in 2023. Complete this form to be notified when registration is live. You can also sign up for the monthly NOVA IET newsletter which will have details about the 2023 programs as soon as they are available.

To learn more about Engineering Technology at NOVA visit https://www.nvcc.edu/academics/areas/applied-technologies/engineering-technology.html

For more about Data Center Operations at NOVA, go to https://www.nvcc.edu/academics/areas/applied-technologies/data-center-operations.html

To learn more about the NSF ATE PI Conference, click here

 

Graduate Success Stories in Tech for Hispanic Heritage Month

Emily Reyna, a NOVA grad, recently worked as a STEM Support Specialist for NOVA SySTEMic before moving on to her dream job as a Tester at Bethesda Softworks, a AAA game studio. As part of her farewell she gave us some insights about her experience as a Latina pursuing an in-demand tech career.

How did you first learn about NOVA?

Growing up NOVA was a topic at all our family gatherings. My grandmother and grandfather worked here, close to their retiring my mom began working here, and now both my sister and I work here. In addition to work, I had the opportunity to see so much success come from our students as I grew up so I knew I would go to NOVA before finishing my degree at another institution.

How were you first inspired in STEM?

My teacher at Battlefield High School, Mr. Bishop, encouraged me to go into the STEM field by taking me through the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program and encouraging me to participate and assist in the SeaPerch robotics initiative. Towards the end of my high school experience, I had a meeting to discuss my future with Mr. Bishop and he encouraged me to go the computer science and graphic design route because I had an interest in becoming a video game designer.

You worked alongside the NOVA SySTEMic team. Describe your experience:

I have obtained a better grasp on all that goes into 3D modeling, laser cutting, and the importance of visualizing your subjects. In video games and out, visualizing what the object is you are working with and then being able to create it in 3D adds even more meaning to what you have made.

Having the opportunity to be amazed by the fabrication equipment, assist in the planning of curriculum for students, and seeing that curriculum put into action has been an extremely rewarding experience.

How has NOVA and NOVA SySTEMic equipped you in your career path?

NOVA and NOVA SySTEMic have opened my eyes to all the possibilities of the STEM world. From Disney using 3D modeling and fabrication to visualize their characters, to Marvel using Unity, a video game creation software, to add in backgrounds and special effects to their movies, it is amazing what technology can do. The STEM field is ever expanding and NOVA and NOVA SySTEMic have done an amazing job connecting their students to the STEM workforce and all that STEM can do for them.

How have you balanced work needs will pursuing your education?

Working at NOVA has been a significant help. The one saying I have heard over and over in every department, even those I have not worked closely with, is education comes first. If I need a day to focus on my schoolwork, NOVA is always able to accommodate and ensure I can get my work done.

What excites you about the gaming industry?

With the innovations in technology, I am extremely excited to see what comes next. In my research for my degree, I have found that doctors are using virtual reality tech to train and perform surgeries. It adds an additional layer of health safety by not requiring someone to be directly in the room and allows for even more accuracy than before. Robots, technology, and specifically video games are the future. While video games have a stigma of being dangerous, what the technology that goes into video games can do is astonishing and even life saving for some!

You recently secured a new job at Bethesda Softworks – Congratulations! How were you were able to secure the opportunity?

I have always said since I was in high school was, I am going to work for Bethesda Softworks, a AAA game studio. When searching for full-time positions, I saw they were looking for entry-level game testers and thought while I do not have the exact experience they want, I enjoy their games and the video game community so I would give it a shot. When they called back and were giving me the opportunity to work for them, I could not say no!

What are your ultimate career goals?

My ultimate career goal would be to get into a AAA company, Bethesda Softworks or otherwise, and become a game developer. What is nice about being a tester is I get to work with all the departments to share my findings on issues that could arise for other players. Hearing and seeing the experiences of those in the game field currently, game development suits what I see for myself in the future.

Are there any professors or mentors who you want to recognize along your journey?

Mr. Bishop encouraged me to get into the STEM field. While I had an interest in game design, I do not think I would have gone further into pursuing that field had I not taken his engineering classes and learning all that computer science and computer engineering has to offer.

I also want to recognize and thank Carolee Cawthon, the NOVA Manassas IT Manager, for sharing her knowledge, time, and care over the years while working for the college. I was always willing to learn, and she was willing to teach, and I appreciate my time with her and the NOVA IT team.

How does your life in the professional world differ from life as a NOVA student? What are the expectations?

One of the most rewarding parts about life in the professional setting is the ability to collaborate with industry professionals and learn from their experiences. In an educational setting you have a disconnect from your peers and have temporary teams with little emotional connection towards assisting each other’s goals. In the professional setting you are all working towards a common goal but also collaborate to assist in each other’s personal goals and always strive for the best for one another.

What is your experience as a woman/Latina in the tech fields? What further steps for equality would you like to see in general in technology fields?

The Latino community in the STEM field is very small and comes with many hurdles to finishing your degree. To start there is a strong language barrier between professor and student. While a professor intends to teach, often they do not take into a student’s background, upbringing, and how they were previously taught. Latino communities are very hands on, constant high-fives, hugs, words of encouragement, and even using food to encourage and collaborate amongst peers. Whether being homeschooled or in a public setting, many teachers supported their students by performing this action, but in a university setting, many professors are hands off, often providing a textbook definition.

Additionally, since a STEM degree is a very tough but financially worthwhile degree, much of the Latino community struggles to get by daily, let alone pay for schooling. Latino families send their children to school to get these IT and computer related degrees in hopes of them making a lot of money one day but soon realize it is near impossible to financially support their children’s dreams. The Latino community still has the mindset of keeping the women home or working in jobs that primarily focus on “womanly duties” as one might call them.

Being a Latina woman in STEM, I want to encourage and be an example for the Latino community. There are many programs and scholarships that encourage the Latina community. If there is something you set out for and dream about, NOVA and our NOVA SySTEMic team are always willing to help, much like they have done for me during my years of schooling and after.

What would you say to current NOVA IET students who would like to follow your example? What should they do and what should they expect?

Computer science is a difficult field to fully grasp and get in to. While some go into computer science with the intention of getting a lot of money, make sure you enjoy what you are doing, have fun along the way, and really grasp the information. Understanding is always the first step so ask for clarification as needed but look at some topics like a puzzle to solve.